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Budget Cap Discussions Heat Up In Mount Vernon

Budget discussions with the Mount Vernon City Council are heating up as the deadline to adopt it approaches.
Budget discussions with the Mount Vernon City Council are heating up as the deadline to adopt it approaches. Photo Credit: www.cmvny.com

MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – The City Council has no choice but to go over the 2 percent state-imposed tax levy cap so city services aren’t crippled, according to City Council President Roberta Apuzz.

Mayor Ernie Davis has proposed a revised budget that would raise taxes for property owners in the city by 6.5 percent. The original proposal called for a 9.8 percent tax hike, but proposed cuts to the Mount Vernon Public Library and from the tax refund budget helped drop the tax rate by more than 3 percent. Though the revised proposed budget is still asking to raise taxes more than 2 percent, the Mount Vernon City Council voted 3-2 to override the cap so it would be able to hold a public hearing and “move the process along.”

“We are going to have to go over the 2 percent cap because we have no choice,” Apuzzo said. “People say we don’t have services now, but if we cut the budget further there will be no services whatsoever. We’ve been working diligently almost every night to do the best job we can for the citizens of Mount Vernon.”

Council member Richard Thomas said the mayor’s revised budget doesn’t do enough to lower the tax hike for residents. Thomas said the city is trapped by a bureaucracy that needs to be addressed.

“The plan to raise property taxes and borrow from tax refunds is like fighting two small-scale wars and not paying for them,” Thomas said. “That’s a problem. Our comptroller (Maureen Walker) is not immune from this either because she didn’t put anything on the table to help us understand the scope of the problem other than creating a talking point. Everyone seems to be focused on what’s in it for them and not the people of Mount Vernon.”

Council member Deborah Reynolds said she will not vote to approve the revised budget until it is whittled down to 2 percent or less.

“I’m for the residents of Mount Vernon and we haven’t done the right thing,” Reynolds said. “We don’t have to stand for this as a community. I’m not voting for the budget the way it is.”

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